The holiday season is a prime time for hackers, scammers, and online thieves. To protect ourselves and our personal information, it is important to learn the potential dangers of online shopping. Millions of Americans will be online looking for the best gifts and deals, while hackers will be looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. The best defense against these threats is awareness. Below are a few simple steps we can all take to be more aware when we shop.
1. Only Shop Through Trusted Sources
Watch out for fake websites
This is one of the most popular ways criminals will trick shoppers into their scams. Fraudsters will clone a site and consumers believe they are shopping on a legitimate site. These scams can be hard to detect. Red flags include pixilated images, websites ending in different domains (example .org vs .com), and slow load times. Make sure you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor before you enter any personal or financial information.
Be aware of phishing emails
During the holidays, retailers often send out deals via email. Cyber criminals will send phishing emails designed to look like they are from reputable retailers. If you are unsure if an email is legitimate, type the URL of the company into your browser than than clicking the link. When in doubt, do not click on any links within a vendor email.
Make sure your information is being encrypted
Many sites use secure sockets layer (SSL) to encrypt your information. The easiest way to tell if your information is being encrypted is a URL that begins with "https:" instead of "http:" or a closed padlock icon by the URL.
Avoid deals that seem too good to be true
Cybercriminals know consumers source the web to find the cheapest deals, and trick shoppers by slipping in fake deals. Be wary of any pop-up deals or posts on social media that advertise unusually low prices. These links can often take you to a phishing site that looks to steal your information or install malware onto your device.
2. Check Your Devices
Protect your devices
Protect your devices by keeping the software up-to-date. This includes mobile phones, laptops, computers, and tablets. Also check the privacy settings on your devices to understand what information will be used and stored. Make sure you are not sharing more information than you want or need.
Use complex passwords
3. Use Safe Methods for Purchases
If you can, use a credit card
There are laws to limit your liability to fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards.
Check your bank statements often
When using a debit card, check your bank statements and balances often for any fraudulent charges. Immediately notify your bank or financial institution and, if need be, local law enforcement if your statements do not seem accurate. For further protection, visit any First Financial Bank location to enroll in debit card alerts to ensure you have control of your spending.
Use your Digital Wallet
When you use your First Financial debit card through Apple or Google Pay, your actual card number is not stored or used when you make a purchase. All transaction information is encrypted for secure shopping, both in person and online.
Monitor your SMS Debit Card Alerts
Monitor your spending and prevent fraudulent purchases by via SMS account alerts.
If you or someone you love fell victim to identity theft or an online scam, click here for resources.
Information provided by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. For more information on cybersecurity, visit cisa.gov.